A laboratory animal ethics course based on
Islamic rules could be more-readily
and more-easily accepted in Islamic countries
Seyed Javid Aldavood, Ramin Mazaheri Nezhad Fard and Fataneh Naderynezhad
In Iran, many taught courses and advanced biological research studies in pharmacology, Physiology, Microbiology, Biotechnology, Genetics, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, involve the use of laboratory animals. These animals constitute the main foundation of biomedical research and remain a prototype for human research studies. Therefore, Iranian researchers and the Iranian Society for the Prevention of Animal Abuse, as part of their mission, have begun to establish animal ethics courses (see Table 1 for a progress outline). These courses are based on an Iranian Animal Ethics Framework and codes of conduct, written by one of the authors (SJA). This framework is based on Islamic rules and narrations on animal welfare that are accepted by Iranians, and it is also compatible with other such international frameworks. All researchers and laboratory technicians must enrol in these animal ethics courses, when they apply to conduct an animal research study. If the personnel hold no course certificates, then they are not permitted to undertake the animal research project.
The head of the university or research centre has the power to stop their practice, by means of ethics committee jurisdiction. In 2010, the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medicine decided that the publication of papers featuring work undertaken without ethical permission should be prohibited, and encouraged scientific journals to reject papers that describe work performed without an ethical approval certificate.
The initial draft of the Iranian Animal Ethics Framework was prepared by SJA in 2003, and was finalised in 2005 after several revisions by SJA and colleagues. A general course and at least seven specific courses have been designed, based on this framework. The general course has four main sections, including:
1. Characteristics necessary for appropriate laboratory animal building designs, such as cage size, sewage, plumbing and other facilities, to maximise animal welfare.
2. Selection of species for research studies, and how to reduce the numbers of laboratory animals used.
3. Manual instructions and practical training for laboratory technicians, including personal hygiene, laboratory animal health and welfare, and animal handling and feeding.
4. Researcher inductions, including animal transportation and handling, laboratory animal diseases, analgesic drugs, euthanasia, and so on.
Course topics and details were further developed in 2007, and since that date, the courses became available at some universities.
Sporadic pilot courses in 2007–2008 established a main nucleus to crystallise a national author team after the course programme was officially approved by the Iranian Learning and Education Minister in 2009. The Minister added the new courses to relevant university subject programmes, after approval by a specialised committee. A general supervision by the institutional animal ethics committee will be made of all animal researchers after completing the main training plan. This not only improves research projects and satisfies animal welfare organisations, but also develops Islamic concepts in our society.
Islamic concepts extracted from the Quran, and the narrations of Prophet Mohammad and his followers,abound with rules about kindness to animals. Although international animal ethics principles have been applied for many years, we can find many similar rules in Islamic quotations. Therefore, a laboratory animal ethics course based on Islamic rules could be more-readily and more-easily accepted in Islamic countries, as compared to other courses. We aim to use the power of religion to get acceptance for our framework within Iran. These rules not only are comparable with international ones, but also are more significant in most animal welfare issues. Therefore, eventually, this framework might also be of use internationally.
Author for correspondence:
Dr Seyed Javid Aldavood
(President of the Iranian Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Animals)
University of Tehran